In a mixed-methods study, Meghan Pifer, assistant professor in the Academic Development and Counseling Department at Lock Haven University, looked at the dynamics of informal intradepartmental relationships in two departments to determine how networks can affect faculty members’ access to resources, and ultimately their career success and satisfaction.
HIGHER ED TEACHING STRATEGIES FROM MAGNA PUBLICATIONS
Much attention has been given to the “difficult” or “disruptive” student, and rightly so. However, colleges and universities aren’t just institutions of learning, they’re workplaces as well. And like any workplace, there are colleagues who are a joy to work with, and there are colleagues who can poison an entire department.
As the new department chair, you are pleased when a graduate student comes to you to discuss her career. That pleasure fades, however, when you find that the conversation is not about choosing between job offers, but about a consensual affair she says she has been having with a faculty member up for tenure. The student says she had been trying to end the affair, but the faculty member has resisted, even threatening to delay her degree. Although she says she has talked to every member of her committee as well as the student advocate, she refuses to file a formal complaint or let her name be used for fear it will damage her career. However, she suggests to you that the faculty member does not deserve tenure.
Colleagues can play such an important role in our development as teachers, yet most of the time we don’t make use of them in ways that really help us grow pedagogically. We spend time with faculty who inhabit offices near ours sharing pedagogical pleasantries, noting our successes and those of our students, or complaining about the lack of institutional support for teaching or the poor performance of this year’s entering class.
Have you ever left a meeting in which you were trying to work with some colleagues on aligning the curriculum for a course that several of you teach, and decided that the best (printable) word to describe a colleague was “difficult?”
Incivility in higher education has flourished in recent years, fueled by a convergence of factors ranging from the infiltration of a more corporate culture and a system that rewards individual accomplishments above collaboration to decreased state funding coupled with increased workloads and expectations. For department chairs, leading teams of educators during such a difficult time can be wrought with unexpected challenges and frustrations.